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New Publication Provides Guidance on Operating Experience Programmes to Improve Safety

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A new publication shows nuclear installation operators and regulatory bodies how they can systematically learn from experience to reduce the likelihood of events that could compromise safety.

Operating Experience Feedback for Nuclear Installations, a new safety guide that is part of the IAEA Safety Standards series,  details the key components of an operating experience programme, such as the identification and reporting of internal operating experience and the use, dissemination and exchange of operating experience, including through national and international reporting systems.

“This publication builds on other IAEA Safety Standards by emphasising the importance of learning from not only events, but also near misses and precursor incidents,” said Greg Rzentkowski, Director of Nuclear Installation Safety at the IAEA. An event is defined as any occurrence with potential safety consequences unintended by the operator’, he added. 

Internal operating experience includes learning from human errors, equipment failures and near misses to prevent or reduce the likelihood of problem recurrence. It includes a process for evaluating the safety significance of the problems, setting priorities in correcting them, tracking them until they have been corrected and use the lessons learned to improve safety.

“The new safety guide is aimed at operating organizations and regulatory bodies responsible for nuclear installations and describes their roles and responsibilities in the overall operating experience programme,” said Dian Zahradka the IAEA nuclear safety expert in charge of the publication. “It is of relevance to other organizations involved in the design, construction, commissioning, operation and decommissioning of nuclear installations. It also provides more detailed explanations of specific programme elements and stresses the value of learning from others.”

IAEA safety reviews on operating experience

To help national authorities implement safety standards, the IAEA offers safety review services. Some of these, including Operational Safety Review Team missions and Peer Review of the Effectiveness of the Operational Safety Performance Experience Review missions, assess the effectiveness of operating experience programmes. These reviews are conducted at the request of Member States.

The IAEA operates several web-based incident reporting systems  to facilitate the exchange of operating experience from nuclear power plants (the International Reporting System for Operating Experience), research reactors (the Incident Reporting System for Research Reactors) and fuel cycle facilities (the Fuel Incident Notification and Analysis System).  The web-based platforms are co-sponsored by the Nuclear Energy Agency of the Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development. 

The IAEA Safety Standards, developed in cooperation with Member States, serve as a global reference for protecting people and the environment and contribute to a high level of safety worldwide.  

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